Saturday, July 19, 2014

Out of the Ashes, I Rise

Two months and a few days ago, I had my bilateral compartment release surgery. 

Today, I ran.  It felt great.  It was the first run of the first week of's Couch-to-5K Program: 5-mimute walk then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 15 more minutes. 

I felt awesome during the run portions and then very much had to catch my breath during the walks.

It was glorious.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Under the Knife

Since the end of 2011, I've been struggling off and on -- more on -- with seems to be exertional compartment syndrome.  I was diagnosed with shinsplints in January, came back after a month rest, faster than ever, and then symptoms -- pain in the ankle and shin, loss of range of motion in the left foot -- became persistent again in the fall.  I rested again, started running again in early 2013, but was seldom pain-free, and the the rather-intrusive compartment pressure test showed that I did indeed have compartment syndrome in both legs. 

I really didn't want to have surgery, even though my orthopedist said that it was the most reliable cure for compartment syndrome, so I tried physical therapy. His opinion was that it was worth trying, but he was pessimistic that it would work. It seemed like it worked when I got serious about running again in January...until it didn't, and symptoms returned.  I made the decision to have the surgery.  I met one more time with my orthopedist, who agreed, naturally, that if I wanted to train for longer races again, that surgery was the best course of action for me.

I met with the surgeon in early April, and he explained that the procedure involves making incisions in the layer of fascia around the muscles in my lower leg compartments, which releases the pressure and should relieve symptoms.  He said that was a relatively simple procedure, and that I could have both legs operated on at the same time, which would make my recovery harder, or I could do one after the other, which would make recovery easier because I would have one "good" leg, but would take twice as long to get both legs "fixed".  I opted to have compartment release surgery on both legs, and I was scheduled to arrive at Wellspan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital on Thursday at 7:30am for the outpatient procedure.

I arrived, checked in, and was quickly taken back to remove my clothes (even my underpants) and change into a stylish surgical gown, and then put into a bed in a pre-op room to get ready.

As it turned out, my surgery almost didn't happen, because of this little guy:

This is Domo, aka, "The Fun Panther", our crazy little friend, who left an approximately one-inch long scratch ankle-level on my right shin when he jumped over my lap (I had my right leg crossed over the other).  When I was taken back for pre-op, the nurses quickly said that this little cut might cause my surgery to be delayed.  Cats have a lot of bacteria on their claws, and so they are extra careful with cat scratches because of the risk of infection.  After my surgeon looked at it, and said that it was ok to proceed because it was not near enough any of the incision areas, they shaved my legs and gave me an intraveneous anti-biotic and painkiller.  The anesthesiologist briefly visited and explained his role in the procedure, and then it was go time.

My bed was wheeled back to the operating room, and I slid myself over from the bed to the operating table, unintentionally giving some of the surgical staff a free show.  One of the surgical staff said that they would be giving me the anesthesia, and I would be asleep in about 60 seconds.  I don't think it even took that long...

...and the next thing I recall, I was in my bed with some nurses around me, my legs bandaged and painful, and my head feeling very groggy.  The nurses told me that I told the nurses I was going to make out with my wife and I asked them to bring me my kitty, neither of which happened, of course.

Apparently I made more incoherent conversation with the nurses and then Chris, who had talked with my surgeon while I was still asleep, was brought back so I could talk nonsense with her, too.   I don't really remember much of the conversation, but at some point I was moved from my bed into a recliner, and given my crutches for a brief practice with them, before being wheeled out of the hospital to Chris' car.  When we got home, I groggily made it up the stairs and plopped myself on the couch, where I've spent most of the past three days.

(My legs right after getting home.)

I was definitely in pain, intense at times, but I wouldn't call it excruciating.  I've got a prescription for vicodin, which makes my legs feel better but has made me nauseous at times.  Each of my three days since surgery I've less sharp pains in my legs but more muscle aches and pains.  I didn't sleep much at all on Thursday night, but slept very well last night, and somewhat successfully made my first post-surgery visit outside the house, when Chris took me to Dunkin' Donuts this morning.

I'll learn more about my rehabilitation next Friday, when I go for my post-op visit with my surgeon, and until then at least I'll be on crutches and quite useless.  I was told not to count on driving for four weeks, but that most people are back driving and feeling pretty well in 10 days to two weeks.

And my friend, Domo, who almost prevented my surgery?

He's been a nice little rehab friend.

For further reading about exertional compartment syndrome, here are two other patients' blogs that I've found to be very helpful:

Legs on Fire:  My Experience with Compartment Syndrome

Life After Compartment Syndrome

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

16th Birthday

"We're buying these party hats for people...not a cat," I said overly loudly to my wife as we walked through the dollar store, giggling helplessly.  "No one would buy party hats for a cat.  Who would do such a thing?"

Yesterday was Higgy the cat's 16th birthday, and since he's been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, it's in all likelihood his last birthday, so we decided to make a really big deal of it to celebrate the life of our weird, furry, treasured friend.

I can't say that Higgy did not hate his race-car themed party hat, but he did enjoy tuna, cake, and ice cream.  Not all at once...of course.  That's just gross.

Higgy's favorite part of the party was probably that the kittens were not invited.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Timex Ironman Triathlon, my A**

Back in December, Chris and I went on a weeklong cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore.  It was a wonderful week of relaxation, eating, tropical adventures, and eating. 

The time on the ship was relaxing and fun, but the highlights of the vacation were our two excursions in Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas.

In Nassau, we had the chance to cruise around town on Segways, which I can't recommend enough.  We had guides and they did tell us stuff about Bahamian culture and history, which is very interesting, but all that edumacation is balanced out by riding around on such silly vehicles.

Our other excursion, in Freeport on Grand Bahama, was very educational.  Our guide's pride in his island's culture and people just shone through in every word he spoke.  We saw learned a lot, and saw many historical sites, and also had a chance to go snorkeling at a place called either "Paradise Cove" or "Dead Man's Reef", depending on which sign you looked at.

Here, at this gorgeous beach, I had a great time swimming and saw many beautiful fish.  I made it back, but my until-then trusty watch did not.  After a few minutes in the water, the time jumped an hour forward, causing me to think that our whole group was going to miss our ride back to the boat and be stuck at Dead Man's reef forever.  I'll be honest, I wouldn't have really minded.  A little while later, it stopped working altogether, and when I got out of the water it fluctuated between complete watch death and displaying nonsensical signals that probably signaled the Bahamian Apocalypse.

(Cause of death: drowning)

I took it to the jeweler last week to see if a new battery would save it, and he said the inside was corroded.  While it's my fault for A) waiting months to take it in and B) thinking I could snorkel with a $40 watch, the watch was supposed to be water resistant up to 100 meters and it is branded "triathlon".  If Timex is going to call a watch that, it should be able to go for a swim.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Remember Your Victories, or "From Russia with Love"

I'm pretty good at owning my failures.  When I screw up at work, which is rare, I take accountability for fixing the problem.  Now that I'm completely out of shape, I recognize that there are no excuses.  I'm the one who didn't work hard enough.  I'm the one who didn't eat right.  And while I'm not so great at fixing those things, I am really, really good at kicking myself when I'm down and feeling like a complete loser compared to where I was a little over two years ago.

And yet, one positive thing that's happening within my little Brian brain recently is that despite the pain and struggles (lots of compartment syndrome symptoms on my last two runs), I'm starting to think of myself as a runner again, and I think that's somewhat I'm important.  But I also want to do a better job of owning my successes.  I may not be anywhere half-marathon or marathon shape, but I still ran two of each.  Those accomplishments are not taken away from me.  I don't say that so that I can rest on those laurels, but to remind myself of what I accomplished once, what I can still be proud of, and what I hope to accomplish again.

Shaun White lost in his bid for a third-straight Olympic gold medal in the snowboard half-pipe tonight.  They don't take away his gold from Torino or Vancouver.  He's still the greatest-ever in his sport, and indeed probably the only one from his sport that a lot of Americans can even name. 

I am not comparing myself to Shaun White.  He finished fourth at the Olympics.  I suck at running right now and would need some walk breaks to finish a 5K.  But those medals, from Virginia Beach and Philadelphia, they are still mine. I want to run to those distances again, and I'm going to work to get back to racing shape and to my goal weight, but even if I never run those distances again, those moments -- those successes of which I am proud -- they are part of me and they can't be taken away.  

I think it might help me to occasionally remember that.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

By the Old Garmin and the New

Remember when I lost my RoadID?  I finally broke down and ordered a new one, and then found the old one the very same day that its replacement arrived.

It's a good thing I learned my lesson.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

 You see, I'd misplaced my Garmin at some point in the Summer, and it had gotten to the point where I was using that (as an admittedly weak) excuse for being even more sloppy in my training than usual.

Following the KidsPeace Orioles Trick-or-Trot 5K, Chris and I stopped at Charm City Run's McHenry Row store, and I purchased a new Garmin Forerunner 10.  Of course, one week later, I found my (somewhat) trusty Garmin Forerunner 201.

As you can see, the Forerunner 10 on the left is roughly half the size of the 201.  Indeed, it is only a little or no bigger than many non-GPS sports watches.  I've been wearing as a watch a little too often, since my Timex Ironman died in the Bahamas, which is a blog entry for another day.  Still, since you never know when a 5K might break out, I don't see the harm in that.

The Forerunner 10 also picks up satellites much faster than 201 did, and seems to connect with them a little more often to give a slightly more precise measurement.  I've meant to wear both of them on a run to compare their measurements, but A) that's really dorky and B) I have enough trouble remember to bring one GPS. The Forerunner 10 connects easily to upload run data to, where run data and maps are displayed.

The Forerunner 10 isn't all pizza and beer, though. It does have a few disadvantages to the 201.  I prefer the 201's larger display, which lets me look at time, speed/pace, and distance all one screen to the 10s smaller screen that only displays two measurements at a time. In the photo above, time and distance are displayed are displayed on the 10 and time, speed, and distance on the 201.

That said, I chose the 10 for it's relatively low price point and the salesperson's advice that would provide features and functionality similar to the 201, which has been discontinued.  That is definitely true, even if the display is set up differently.  Since I only use speed, pace/distance, time, and occasionally the virtual training partner, the Forerunner 10 is certainly sufficient for me.

I've been warned that battery life on the Forerunner 10 is limited to about 4 hours.  I'm a long way from testing that, but if that proves to be the case I'll have to go back to the 201 for longer marathon training runs...but that's a long way off.

I should also mention that the band on my Forerunner 10 broke when the unit was less than two months old.  While that's a negative, I got excellent customer service from Garmin, which replaced the band very quickly at no cost.  Replacement bands are available when I need to replace it again, hopefully in a more normal timeframe.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Negativity Reigns

Usually on Monday morning, I'll remark to one of my coworkers, "Is it Friday, yet?"  I suspect I'm not alone in wanting to rush through the work week to get to the fun part.

Unfortunately, it didn't take too long into this year for me to say "Is it 2015, yet?"

Within the two months of 2014:

  • Our nice old cat, Higgy, who is almost 16, was diagnosed with kitty lymphoma -- the vet drained over a pound of fluid out of him.  He's comfortable and happy, as much as we can tell, for now, but there's nothing that can be done for the poor little guy other than give him meds to slow the buildup of fluid around his lungs and spoil him rotten for as long as we can.
  • I had the flu, and as soon as I got better, Chris got sick.  So we were collectively ill for about two and a half weeks.
  • We had to spend more money on my old car, which I do love, than is probably worth sinking into a 2004 Neon with 140,000ish miles on it, but due to another consideration, it made sense to avoid another car payment.
  •  I got some bad news about my job, which was demoralizing in context of the massive amount of work I did last year and seems to be continuing this year.  
  • Lost our power in the big ice storm that hit the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday.  Power was restored about 40 hours later, meaning that were actually relatively lucky, but during that time we just felt, well...powerless.

(Higgy the Cat, shown in front of his favorite heating vent, doesn't know anything's wrong, but
 he is SUPER pissed that he had to be shaved on the coldest day of the year.)

  I know there's an easy counter to each of those:  "It's good that you got have your cat for that long and that he had a great life"; "You weren't that sick"; "At least you have a car"; "Too much work is better than not enough"; "At least you have a (usually) warm house to live in."

I know. I know.  All of those are completely true, and I recognize that overall, I've got it pretty good and that almost everything I'm complaining about is a "first world problem".  Still, it's been enough bad luck in such a short time that I'm just feeling like it's one bad thing after another this year, and having trouble getting out of that negative mindset.

Since I can't make 2015 get here any faster, I need to find a way to reset my way of thinking, and since running had -- until this week -- actually been starting to go pretty well again, I think it's time to cut this blog entry short and head out on the road.

I'm sure that it'll also help when we win the Powerball tonight.